Courses

The course descriptions below are correct to the best of our knowledge as of May 2014. Instructors reserve the right to update and/or otherwise alter course descriptions as necessary after publication. The listing of a course description here does not guarantee a course’s being offered in a particular semester. The Course Rotation Guide lists the expected semester a course will be taught. Please refer to the published schedule of classes for confirmation a class is actually being taught and for specific course meeting dates and times. In addition to the courses listed in the bulletin and courses approved after June 1, 2014, SPH, SPH degree candidates may register for a directed (independent) study with a full-time SPH faculty member. For more information, speak with your faculty advisor or a staff member in the SPH Registrar’s Office.

  • SPH SB 710: Nutrition and Public Health
    This course examines the principles of public health nutrition and explores the nutritional status of individuals throughout their life cycle. Faculty focus on nutrition assessment, the development of nutrition policy, the role of diet in obesity and chronic diseases of an affluent society, nutrition program planning, and national and local nutrition surveillance. In addition, the course reviews the components of administering nutrition services on a local, national, and international level. The impact of overall socioeconomic development on nutrition and health status, infectious disease, and public health policy is considered. No previous coursework in nutrition is required; a basic introduction to nutrition is provided.
  • SPH SB 721: Social and Behavioral Sciences for Public Health
    Graduate Prerequisites: Students who take SPH IH720 may not take SB721 for MPH degree credit.SB concentrators must take this course regardless of citizenship status.
    This survey course introduces MPH students to social and behavioral sciences within the context of public health scholarship, research, and practice. The basic aim of the course is to teach students the social and behavioral science fundamentals (principles, theories, research, and techniques) that can and should be used to inform the identification, definition, assessment, and resolution of public health problems. The course focuses on providing a framework for considering the important questions in a thoughtful and evidence-based manner such that students will be able to critically analyze public health problems and determine the appropriate social and behavioral sciences principles, theories, and research that will be most effective and useful in intervening to address that particular public health problem. The course considers alternative paradigms for understanding and intervening to resolve public health problems in a critical way, drawing heavily upon the public health literature in which these various perspectives have been vigorously debated and discussed.
  • SPH SB 730: Stress as a Public Health Problem
    Research on the impact of excessive psychological stress indicates that it plays a significant role in physical and psychological health, in rising incidence of substance use and violence in communities, in increased absenteeism and decreased productivity in the work place, and increased medical costs. This course examines the impact of psychological, biological, environmental and social stressors on health, illness, health-risking behavior and its economic and public health consequences. Education and intervention strategies and programs involving community awareness and participation are evaluated. Through literature review, lecture and discussion, students examine the field and explore its application to health care and public health.
  • SPH SB 732: Nutrition, Aging, and the Elder Population
    Graduate Prerequisites: .
    This course explores the nutritional needs of elderly adults and describes the various physiological, psychological, and social changes that occur with aging that affect dietary and nutritional status. The techniques of nutritional assessment of elders in both the community and clinical settings are discussed. The nutritional needs of older adults are linked with recommendations designed to maintain optimal health into older age. Students learn about the major federal and state nutrition programs that target elders and are able to identify strengths, weaknesses, and gaps in services. Preparation of a brief policy memo on a topic of current interest and/or controversy related to elderly nutrition is required.
  • SPH SB 733: Mass Communication and Public Health
    Graduate Prerequisites: SPH SB721.
    This course explores the use of mass communication as a tool for health promotion, both domestically and internationally. The course examines the role of the mass media in shaping a social and cultural environment that affects the public health , and then reviews a range of mass media strategies available to the practitioner--public communication campaigns, social marketing, public relations, and media advocacy. Students discuss the strengths and limitations of each approach and gain experience in applying these strategies to specific public health problems. Students work in groups on a final project in which they develop and present a proposal for a plan for a health promotion initiative that uses mass media.
  • SPH SB 740: Social Factors: A Contextual Framework for Public Health Research and Practice
    Graduate Prerequisites: SPH SB721, completed or concurrent
    This course is an investigation into the conceptualization, operationalization, measurement, assessment, analysis, and evaluation of socially and culturally-based determinants of public health problems for the purpose of conducting public health research and developing public health interventions. More specifically, students will critically evaluate existing research evidence, develop an understanding of the constructs, variables, hypotheses and conceptual models for various social factors that influence health; review and evaluate the measurements of selected social factors; interpret the impact of these factors on public health outcomes, and offer solutions in the form of interventions that develop protective strategies that would minimize negative effects of social factors. Students will be able to apply this understanding of social behavioral and cultural factors to both domestic and international settings by the use of specific case studies.
  • SPH SB 750: Preventing Intimate Partner Violence
    Graduate Prerequisites: SPH SB721 recommended.
    This course provides an introduction to the topic of intimate partner violence with a focus on how public health practitioners can contribute to its prevention. Lectures will cover teen dating violence, child witnesses to violence, batterer intervention, the domestic violence shelter movement, elder abuse, the intersectionality of oppressions framework and partner violence prevention, and the overlap between child abuse and partner violence. Students will receive information about current laws and controversies related to partner violence prevention. This course is primarily focused on partner violence in the U.S.. The major assignment for this course is a one-hour presentation prepared and delivered to the class; therefore, students should be prepared for public speaking. Students who complete the course will be prepared to undertake research assistant, health department, or community-based work in the area of partner violence prevention and advocacy. Teaching methods include lectures, small group discussion, case analyses, the use of multimedia, and interviews with providers. National and state experts in the field of partner violence prevention present guest lectures.
  • SPH SB 751: Sexual Violence: Public Health Perspectives in Intervention and Prevention
    This course provides an introduction to the topic of sexual violence with a focus on how public health practitioners can contribute to its prevention. Students will have the opportunity to interact with a victim of sexual violence, learn about approaches to sex offender treatment, and receive information about current laws and controversies related to sexual violence prevention. This course is primarily focused on sexual violence in the U.S., although one or two lectures on topics such as women trafficking and sexual violence as a weapon of war may be presented. The major assignment for this course is a one-hour presentation prepared and delivered to the class; therefore, students should be prepared for public speaking. Students who complete the course will be prepared to undertake research assistant, health department, or community-based work in the area of sexual violence prevention and advocacy. Teaching methods include lectures, small group discussion, case analyses, the use of multimedia, and interviews with providers. National and state experts in the field of sexual violence prevention present guest lectures. NOTE: Students with an interest in this course need to consider their own capacity to focus intensively on the difficult subtopics that will be covered in detail, including child sexual abuse.
  • SPH SB 760: Health of LGBT Populations
    Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals live in every county of the United States and are recognized as underserved minority populations. In this 4-credit course students will examine the health of minority populations who are marginalized due to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. You will identify and practice techniques for measuring LGBT populations as well as ways to better recognize the assets that are found within these communities. Today, data on these populations are increasingly collected in the context of public health surveillance and also some health care facilities have begun recording these data in medical records, yet access to these data is still mostly restricted. While recognizing the limitations of available data sources, you will make use of publicly available data to characterize quantitatively and qualitatively the diversity of LGBT populations. Course readings, class lectures, and exercises will be used throughout the course to analyze and discuss the micro and macro determinants of LGBT populations' health. You will build skills by utilizing secondary data, performing a content analysis, conducting a key informant interview, and by producing a final paper, which analyzes the literature on a LGBT health topic of their choice for the purpose of proposing next steps in research or program development for the LGBT community.
  • SPH SB 780: Mental Health and Public Health: A Social and Behavioral Sciences Perspective
    Graduate Prerequisites: SPH SB721
    This course provides an investigation into mental health and mental illness from a public health perspective. It covers the concepts of mental illness versus mental health, describes the burden of mental illness, and discusses the etiology, diagnosis, course and treatment of prominent mental illnesses (such as schizophrenia, depression,post traumatic stress disorder, eating disorders, and addiction). In addition, specific examples and cases will address international mental health, as well as domestic racial and ethnic disparities. Taking a social and behavioral sciences perspective, the social consequences of mental illness, such as stigma, isolation, and barriers to care will be explored and their impact on access to care, rehabilitation and recovery considered. Students will also be introduced to the complex interplay of multiple risk, protective and preventive factors with a focus on social factors. The effectiveness of the current system of services and the role of public health and public health professionals will be discussed. Student assignments and projects will develop skills that apply knowledge to understand issues of mental illness and encourage behaviors that promote mental health within communities.
  • SPH SB 800: The Obesity Epidemic: Moving from Individual to Environmental and Policy Approaches for Promoting Physical Activity and Healthy Eating
    This course explores environmental and policy approaches to promote physical activity and healthy eating, two behaviors strongly associated with obesity prevention. Students will gain knowledge in this topic by examining the literature and relevant strategies. Upon completion,students will be able to develop strategies to promote population wide physical activity and healthy eating.
  • SPH SB 805: Race, Ethnicity, and Health
    Graduate Prerequisites: SB721.
    This course examines conceptual and measurement issues related to race/ethnicity in health, public health research and practice, as well as the role of socioeconomic status and other contextual factors in health status and access to health care. The major objectives of this course are to increase students' understanding of: major health problems and utilization of health care among various racial/ethnic populations; the conceptual and measurement issues related to race/ethnicity; and social and political factors that shape health status and access to, and quality of, health care.
  • SPH SB 806: Communications Strategies for Public Health
    Graduate Prerequisites: SPH SB721 and assessment selective for SB concentrators. For MCH concentrators, MC725.
    This core course focuses on the development and execution of a planned communications strategy for a public health organization that is responsible for a community-based intervention. The course also features a review of basic theory and research that can inform the health communications process. Working through a sequence of written assignments, students outline an intervention plan and then prepare several materials to execute a communications strategy, including a pitch letter, press release, commentary/editorial, letter to the editor, and a scheduled press event. Writing workshops in class are designed to give students ideas for their projects and interim feedback on their written assignments.
  • SPH SB 808: Merging Clinical & Population-Based Perspectives in Public Health Practice: Tension & Resolution
    Clinicians and public health professionals rarely share common definitions of health or illness, and they often have competing interests, conflicting agendas, and different strategic approaches to health care problems. This course explores contradictions and tensions between two perspectives that limit the effectiveness of both personal medical care and public health activities. Students observe population-based programs within an emergency department setting and explore the policy implications of collaborative, integrated models.
  • SPH SB 813: Web-based Health Communication Strategies for Public Health Interventions
    Graduate Prerequisites: SPH SB721
    This course covers key health communication principles and methods for designing and evaluating web-based public health interventions. Reflecting the multimedia nature of the web, we'll consider multiple content strategies such as blogs, social media, online instruction modules and more. Each student will conduct formative research to develop a written design document and a simple website prototype for a public health intervention on a topic of interest. We'll cover how to define an audience, set clear objectives, draw on theory, conduct competitive analysis, design for accessibility, write for the web, and gather user input. While the course emphasis is on the planning process and not website design, a series of hands-on computer labs will introduce students to some basic online content creation tools and provide instruction and support for creating a simple website prototype. No technical background is necessary. Grad Prereq: SPH SB721
  • SPH SB 818: Qualitative Research Methods
    Graduate Prerequisites: SPH SB721.
    This course is designed to provide students with experience in the use and application of qualitative research methods for public health activities including needs assessments, research studies, intervention strategies, and program evaluations. Students are introduced to the quantitative versus qualitative data debate in social science research. Emphasis is placed on the practice of qualitative research and each student designs and conducts a research project. Throughout the semester students' field proposals, problems, process, and progress are discussed as are methodological issues including objectivity, sampling, data collection, ethics, and data analysis. Due to the intensive nature of the class, it is not suitable for auditors.
  • SPH SB 820: Assessment and Planning for Health Promotion
    Graduate Prerequisites: SB721 and the epidemiology MPH core course requirement. Epidemiology maybe taken concurrently. For MCH concentrators, MC725.
    This course will introduce students to neighborhoods of Boston and provide opportunities for acquiring and practicing community assessment skills. How do public health scientists and practitioners demonstrate that a health problem in a community warrants intervention. Students will learn to consult large data sets (such as the U.S. Census, hospitalization data, vital records, MassChip, and the Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System) to determine health promotion needs of a specific neighborhoods and groups. Students will practice conducting literature reviews and health problem analyses to examine social determinants and propose webs of causation for selected health outcomes. The focus of the course is on applying both quantitative and qualitative skills, learning to present data clearly and accurately, and communicating effectively using a scientific writing style.
  • SPH SB 821: Intervention Strategies for Health Promotion
    Graduate Prerequisites: SB721 and assessment selective. For MCH concentrators only, MC725.
    This course focuses on strategic planning for public health practice. Social science and maternal and child health approaches are included. Working through a sequence of written assignments, students develop a strategic plan for a program intervention designed to change health behavior or a health outcome. Work in class and during individual consultations is designed to give students practice with elements of the strategic planning process, ideas for their project, and interim feedback on their written assignments.
  • SPH SB 822: Quantitative Methods for Program Evaluation
    Graduate Prerequisites: The epi & Bio MPH core requirements & SB721. For SB concentrators, the assessment and intervention selectives.
    This course provides an overview of the major principles and methods associated with systematic evaluation of public health programs. The overall goal is to help students develop skills needed to plan, conduct, critique, and use evaluation research. The course covers: program logic models; formative, process and outcome evaluations; internal, external, validity; threats to internal validity; experimental and quasi-experimental designs; probability and non-probability sampling; questionnaire development; operationalization of variables; statistical analysis strategies; power analysis; and analysis of evaluation design.
  • SPH SB 833: Designing and Implementing a Public Health Communication Campaign
    Graduate Prerequisites: SPH SB721 and the assessment selective.
    What does it take to design a health communication campaign? Who is involved? What media should you use? What works? Should you hire an ad agency, do it yourself, and/or engage the participation of members of your target audience? These are just a few of the questions that will be addressed by students of SB833. In designing, students will develop and implement a mock health communication campaign on a topic selected by the class. The process will include topic research, audience selection, writing a communication plan, brand and message creation. Students will ?sell? their idea by responding to an RFP. Then, students will break into groups to implement their plan. They may create or facilitate the creation of websites, marketing materials, video, and/or any other products deemed effective and feasible.